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Covid-19 threatens Mec’s South African lawyers

Sangwani Mwafulirwa

The 21-day lockdown in South Africa due to coronavirus threatens Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec)’s chances of being represented by their South African lawyers in the appeal case.

While the lawyers are yet to be allowed to practice in Malawi, they face yet another setback following the lockdown which makes it unlikely to travel in time for the case, whose hearing is on April 15 2020.

Mec spokesperson, Sangwani Mwafulirwa, said he needed time to consult before commenting on the possibility of the lawyers travelling to Malawi in the face of the lockdown.

“I need to find out on this,” he said.

The 21-day lockdown ends on April 16 2020, a day after the court’s scheduled hearing of the appeal.

Mec hired South African lawyers Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys for representation in the appeal against the Constitutional Court order calling for a fresh presidential election.

The electoral body is set to pay Mboweni about K600 million.

Addressing the media recently, Mec Chairperson, Justice Jane Ansah, said the South African lawyers were hired after the Constitutional Court had stopped Attorney General, Kalekeni Kaphale, from representing the commission in the case.

Ansah said most of the local lawyers Mec approached declined to offer their services and that the one who accepted to work with them would be available after April.

Registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court, Agnes Patemba, said the court directed the commission to formally apply by yesterday to have the South African lawyers’ representation.

According to Patemba, Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda had set April 2 to hear the application but the courts were yet to receive it as of yesterday.

The South African government announced the lockdown from yesterday to combat the spread of the virus.

On February 3 2020, the Constitutional Court nullified the May 21 2019 presidential poll saying it was not held in accordance with the law.

Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera and UTM leader Saulos Chilima challenged the election on grounds of irregularities, among others.

On top of the main appeal to be heard on April 15, Mec applied to have the order nullifying the election suspended but the court dismissed the application on February 12.

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